Serie B gets Indian title sponsor as TV rights talks resume
BKT, the Indian tyre manufacturer, was today unveiled as the new title sponsor of Serie B as Italian soccer’s second-tier league continued to negotiate with bidders for broadcasting rights.
It has been reported that the offers for the media rights are not yet considered sufficiently high.
BKT has signed a three-year deal to give its name to the competition, which will be known as the Serie BKT, with a new logo.
The company is based in Mumbai, with a European headquarters in Seregno in Italy, and specialises in ‘off-highway’ tyres, namely those used by agricultural, construction and industrial vehicles.
The title sponsorship deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, was brokered with the support of Havas Sports & Entertainment, a division of the international advertising giant, which became a commercial adviser of Lega B, the organiser of the second division, last year.
BKT replaces ConTe.it, the Italian insurance provider, whose three-year deal for Serie B expired at the end of the 2017-18 season.
The top-tier Serie A has still to secure a new title sponsor to replace Telecom Italia whose deal for the top flight also ran out this summer.
The telecoms company had been an official sponsor of Serie A for 20 years, and its last contract was thought to be worth upwards of €16 million ($18.6 million) per year.
Mauro Balata, the president of Lega B, claimed that the deal with BKT reflected the growing popularity of the second-tier league in Italy and beyond.
In a statement, he said: “This partnership continues the path of growth and internationalisation that the Lega B is carrying forward with strength and conviction for its brand. An essential path to ensure greater economic sustainability for its clubs and to stimulate even greater interest and involvement from the public.”
Lucia Salmaso, the managing director of BKT Europe (pictured, left), said: “I am very satisfied with this agreement, which is fully part of BKT’s branding strategy with a focus on the Italian territory where we have our headquarters for Europe.
“Football in Italy has always been a very popular sport and experienced with great passion and participation, so entering this privileged relationship is important for us because we find a style and philosophy of thought that belongs to us, based on passion, fidelity, willpower and tenacity in facing the daily challenges of the market.”
Media rights Balata was not present at today’s announcement as he was involved in a second round of private negotiations with potential broadcasters of Serie B for three years starting with the 2018-19 season.
The league has returned to the negotiating table after offers from pay-television operator Sky Italia, the previous rights-holder, and its rival Mediaset, Perform, the international digital sports content and media group, and Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency and production company, did not meet expectations, according to football business publication Calcio e Finanza.
Other companies that have previously showed interest in the rights, such as Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, and Eurosport, the Discovery-owned pan-European sports network, could also take part in the negotiations.
It is reported that some offers of over €23 million per year were received, but this is little more than the average of €21.5 million per season committed by Sky in its previous three-season contract for all 462 games per season (plus play-off matches).
Serie B set a reserve price of €60.5 million per season in the initial invitation to tender document, but bids failed to meet the lofty target.
The league will invite new bids in the coming days and open the envelopes, with a meeting of clubs scheduled for noon next Friday when it is hoped the rights will be awarded.
Serie B general manager Paolo Bedin (pictured, right) remains optimistic about the process, saying at today’s sponsorship announcement: “It’s a special moment for the Serie B TV rights. President Balata is engaged in a series of continuous meetings that should lead, within a few days, to close a deal for the next three years.
"There are several players interested, traditional like Sky, but also new international and innovative players. All the options are open and the final decision will be taken at the next meeting.”
Last week, Sky was awarded two packages of live rights (totaling 266 games per season) and Perform one package of live rights (comprising 114 games per season) to Serie A in deals worth a basic €2.9 billion over three years.